Sunday, November 28, 2010

...And a Buddha in a Pear Tree

c Tony Campbell/

It’s that holiday time of year again, and the battle lines are drawn. Wait a minute. This is Christmas, or Chanukah  (or some other festive, spiritual celebration) so why talk about battles? It’s just that every year when the frenzy begins (no later than the strike of midnight on Thanksgiving) I’m inevitably lured toward the misguided notion that I must get everything done by December 25th (and to perfection!) even down to the high-maintenance baked beans my mother used to make that take about six hours to prepare. Unfortunately, the intricate process of putting everything together for the holiday can seem more like a battle than a labor of love.
            Today, when I began ruminating about how many shopping days are left, and how I will get the package for my sister’s family to North Carolina on time, and whether there will be enough time to do all the gift-wrapping, cooking, and cleaning, I happened to glance out my home office window. And there, in a tree just a few feet away, sat a mourning dove. The dove wasn’t moving, other than an occasional ruffling of feathers and glance to the side, or a slight puffing of its belly (maybe doing some yogic pranayama?) but she seemed to carry an important message. Is it possible, I wondered, to approach this hectic, frenzied season as this mourning dove does? With ease, and confidence, and knowledge that it will all turn out all right, even if I just sit around puffing my feathers every day for a while?
            Of course, the dove doesn’t have to fly to the mall, or drive in Jersey traffic, or balance her check book, or shop for dinner for fourteen, or figure out what a longboard is and the best place to buy one (apparently, all the rage for getting to class at college). Nor does the dove have to bake cookies or pies from scratch, or orchestrate the Christmas meal so that a dozen dishes are done and piping hot at exactly the same moment. But these are my choices, and the choice of the dove is to sit in a (believe it or not) pear tree and soak up the winter sun.           
            I know that as the shopping days keep ticking away, I’m bound to get caught up in the hysteria as I always do, but this year I’m going to keep that plump, happy dove in my mind. Not that I necessarily want to look like her (though after all the Christmas cookies and pies I may), but I do want to emulate her sense of peace and calm. Yes, there are squirrels racing up the tree, leaping from branch to branch, hurling nuts, chasing each other’s tail, but the dove just sits there like a Buddha.
This holiday season, I’m going to try to be a bit more like her.  Let those shopping squirrels go crazy if they want, but I’m going to sit still and breathe!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gratitude For All

I’d like to put a different spin on the usual Thanksgiving message, which, of course, is gratitude for the amazing blessings and abundance in our lives. Naturally, I do feel grateful for my family, for the food on our table, for my friends, and for the rising and setting of the sun each day. But above and beyond that I’d like to say a few words about the things in my life that didn’t work out the way I hoped they would, about the disappointments, and rejections, and screw-ups that allowed me to learn. For instance:
  • I am grateful that so many agents rejected my wonderful manuscript, The Cobra Cure, because all this rejection has taught me, as Winston Churchill once advised, to “never, ever give up.” I am grateful that I have finally learned that it’s the journey—in writing, and in life—not the fruit of the action or the end result that truly matters.
  • I am grateful that numerous young men whom I once had crushes on in high school and college did not end up to be my mate. Yes, they were cute, and cool. But they were not the kind of fellows I would have been happy with in the long run. And so I am grateful that for whatever reason, they broke my heart (or I broke theirs).
  • I am grateful that I did not give birth to a daughter. Yes, I know that daughters are fantastic, and for years I thought it would be nice to have one. But three sons have taught me so much about life that I’m not at all sorry they came my way. They are my boy blessings.
  • I am eternally grateful that I did not get several of the "real" jobs I thought I'd have excelled at, because this has enabled me to live my life as a freelancer, which has been perfect for me. And because I have no “job” I can’t be fired or laid off. And I can take a walk—or a nap-- in the morning or afternoon if I feel like it.
  • I am grateful that I was rejected by Cornell University because had I gone to Cornell University I would never have met my dear friend Francine at Kirkland College.
  • I am grateful that I was born into a family that always had plenty to eat and lots of love, but very little extra cash. The fact that we could only afford one vacation per year to a modest cabin in the Adirondacks made that one week so special that I’ve always remembered my childhood vacations with extraordinary fondness. And I feel lucky that because there wasn’t much money around, what to spend it on was never really an issue.
  • I am grateful that I live in a cozy little house that doesn’t take me all day to clean. I am grateful that the huge Victorian I had my eye on didn’t pan out, because if it had I would be doing a helluva lot of dusting.
  • I am, lastly-- for this list could go on and on--truly grateful that five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I am still here. I don’t view cancer as a gift, but I am grateful for the many lessons it taught me about living my life to the fullest.
  • And…this is really the last one…I’m grateful to you few folks who read this blog. Thanks, sistah! And to my best friends….and to a few others (you know who you are!) I didn’t really want hundreds of “followers” anyway, because then I’d really have to watch what I say.
  • Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Out of Thyme

© Suto Norbert |

Not long ago, I found myself in the spice aisle at a local supermarket, mumbling to myself, “I’m out of thyme. And there’s no thyme! How can this be? I can’t find the thyme!”
            Sure enough, every other spice was on the shelf: turmeric, curry, rosemary, cardamom, you name it. Just no thyme.  I decided not to waste another second looking for it, and went on with my shopping. But privately, I was laughing. Had the universe played this little trick on me just to remind me that lately I’ve been taking on more than I can handle?
            The fact is, there simply is not enough time in the day—a lament I hear all too often from everyone I meet (except perhaps fashionably bored adolescents, but with all the extracurricular activities, even these are becoming rare these days). And there seems to be no way to beat the system; no matter how you slice it, the day always comes out to exactly 24 hours.  Recently, I read an article that claimed meditation makes you more productive, thereby at least creating the illusion of more time. But having tried this technique for a month I must report that while meditation is grand, it still doesn’t add any hours to my day. In fact, because of my meditation, dinner is now routinely late.
            I’ve also heard the argument that if you really want to do something badly enough, you will make time for it. Now this is truly a curious claim, because even though I really want to attend my yoga class, meditate, walk, write, clean my house, and pay attention to my family, it seems that there is never enough time for everything. I have yet to figure out how to create time without cutting something out (maybe if I keep meditating the answer will come to me?).
            Adding to the confusion is the fact that we recently turned the clocks back. This is fine if you’re an early riser but if you like to be productive in the late afternoon, forget it. It’s now time to start preparing dinner at about 3 o’clock.            
            I’ve tried getting up really early to solve this dilemma, and the result is that I need a nap in the mid-afternoon, a time when I should be completing one of the many tasks on my list. I’ve also tried staying up really late, and the result is that I can’t pull myself out of bed in the morning. And yes, I’ve tried going to bed and rising at “reasonable” hours, but even this doesn’t seem to alter the fact that there is simply not enough time to get everything done.
            I guess the lesson to be learned is simply to accept what we cannot change, and just keep the focus on making the most of every moment.  In the meantime, I’m heading to a different grocery store, where I hope to at least replenish the thyme over which I do have complete and utter control.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Having a Bad Hair Day?

Do you let your hair get in the way of having fun? I don’t. In fact, just the other day I went out with my hair in an atrocious knot. The knot was caused by wind at the beach, so was I going to bring my brush and comb along? No way. How my hair looked was the last thing on my peaceful, happy mind.
            I bring this up because I’ve noticed lately that every time I log onto my computer the media hounds are criticizing or ridiculing some movie star’s hair, dress, or shoe style. I’ve even noticed some nasty pictures of Michelle Obama going around the Internet, as if the First Lady has to look like a model all the time  (hellooo Eleanor Roosevelt?) And someone is always teasing about Sarah Palin’s tresses (I must admit I’m guilty on this count). But why -–in such an "advanced" society—must we collectively behave like adolescents? Who really cares how Lindsay Lohan’s hair looks on any given day? And so what if some other celebrity’s pants are on backwards? Have we nothing better to think about?
            Many years ago, I went for a walk in the rain wearing a ridiculous red plastic hat. I admit the hat was decidedly untrendy and unstylish, but its broad floppiness kept my head dry. Years later, I found out that a very attractive male had considered accompanying me that day, but he decided—based on my hat—that I was not worthy of his attention. Later, upon meeting me without the hat, he cursed his decision and confessed that he had foolishly pre-judged me purely on the basis of my silly attire. Once he got to know me, this fellow liked me quite a lot.  But not surprisingly, perhaps, the relationship didn’t survive.
            My point? Though I don’t like to use my blog for grousing, it does bother me that we can’t—as a society—look a littler deeper than one’s hair, hat, or pocketbook to decide whether someone is worthy of respect or affection. And I find it more than a bit annoying that the Internet plays into this tendency, by allowing the media and regular folks to post embarrassing pictures of others without a second thought.
To wit, I’m posting the above picture of myself at the beach, with bad hair on a beautiful day. If only I’d worn my red plastic hat!